Patrick Costello decided to become a professional musician when he was in third grade—after he’d lost almost all of his hearing. A single memorable experience of watching a blind woman play the guitar to a rapt audience of usually rambunctious children showed him the power of music. That school assembly led him on this lifelong career path.
Today at 44, Costello lives that dream—although it’s not an easy life. He learned to play banjo and guitar by feeling the instruments’ vibrations through his teeth. And he uses the mathematics of musical theory, along with the logic of harmonic progressions, to compose original pieces.
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Music remains his full-time career—and the thing that brought him together with his wife, Amy, six years ago. Costello teaches and shares his musical skills with people around the world, especially others with disabilities. He creates method books, plus 600 videos and counting, all available on his website, Frailing Banjo, or his YouTube channel, with its nearly 13,000 followers and more than 4 million views. And although performing and teaching music are his only source of income, he shares much of his expertise for free.
An in-depth profile of Costello for The Washington Post by Julie Zauzmer tells Costello’s compelling story. Zauzmer also shares his continued medical ups and downs—including getting a bone-anchored hearing system that restored some of his hearing—his challenges in making a living as a musician, and the joy that his music and perseverance brings to thousands of people.